What all these new bills mean for urban planning

A press release from Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP) reports that “smart growth best practices and improved transportation choices” could lessen the amount Americans drive by 10%.  Sell all the clunkers you want, this is tons more effective.

The disconnection of our government got a little more connected this year. HUD, DOT, EPA, everyone’s starting to work together, having realized that different aspects of life are deeply interconnected. Here’s my little summary of what the different bills would do for urban planning (money! yay!).

Transportation

The H.R. 3288: Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 has been passed by the House. More about this under “Sustainable Communities.”

The Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009  is proposed to include an Office of Livability within the Federal Highway Administration, and would create a more holistic view of transportation within the DOT instead of viewing it as a fund for cars.

The Clean Low-Emissions Affordable New Transportation Equity Act (CLEAN TEA) is an effort to get more funds toward green transportation projects. An estimated ten percent of this bill’s funding would go toward improving transportation “and lower greenhouse gas emissions through strategies including funding new or expanded transit or passenger rail; supporting development around transit stops; and making neighborhoods safer for bikes and pedestrians.”  (COMPLETE STREETS PLEASE!)

Sustainable Communities

In March, HUD and DOT came together for a partner project: “Sustainable Communities.” The EPA has also joined this effort to “help improve access to affordable housing, more transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment in communities nationwide.”
In short, the six principles Sustainable Communities promotes aim to

provide more transportation choices,
promote equitable, affordable housing,
enhance economic competitiveness,
support existing communities,
coordinate policies and leverage investment, and
value communities and neighborhoods.

H.R. 3288 has provided funds for this project: of the $150 million dedicated to this account, $100 million would be used for grants to link transportation and land use planning at the regional level and $40 million would be used for competitive Metropolitan Challenge Grants to promote local reform and reduce barriers to building affordable and sustainable communities.

Energy

The ACES bill has a cap and trade system for large sources of carbon. The system trades  permits as a market-based approach to capping greenhouse gas emissions. This means that possibly,  developers who use smart growth practices could also get emission allowances for creating places where driving is reduced.
The GREEN bill (HR 2336) was introduced on June 11 and has not been passed by the house yet. It would include information on energy-efficient location mortgages, grants funding only applicants who meet the green community criteria checklist and the green buildings certification system, the residential energy efficient block program, which would grant funds to communities to improve energy efficiency of single- and multi-family housing, and sustainable development and transportation strategies in comprehensive housing affordability strategies.

There you have it. Yes, the government is spending gazillions of dollars, but if any area needs it, it’s housing and transportation. Have you SEEN Division Avenue?????

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Cash for Clunkers, Signatures for Better Streets (Wow, that wasn't nearly as catchy as I wanted it to be)

Someone cut the out-of-control bushes at the vacant house on the corner of our street. Clearing the public right-of-way. Sweet!  Fix it, even if you didn’t break it.

I asked probably everyone who’d read this blog to sign this petition but I’ll post it here just in case. I’m not usually a fan of petitions but I’ve realized they’re about spreading awareness more than anything. Michigan needs hellllllllp!  Automobile capital of the world is dyyying. And I want to be able to bike to Meijer.  And my friend Nate wants to bike down a street without getting CHANGE thrown in his FACE. (Wow, thank you road ragers.)

Cash for Clunkers is definitely happening–I mean, HAPPENING. My friend’s dad, who is a mechanic at a dealership, talked about it last night. They completely destroy the engines of perfectly good cars. It’s the law. It’s insane. It’d all be well and good from a global warming perspective…if the cars they’re buying were actually tons better with gas mileage. But a 5 mpg improvement? Really? How is that worth it?  It’s just like the ACES bill…it’s not doing nearly enough.